Shipbuilding – a major industry on the Damariscotta for 150 years

Beginning as early as 1770 and continuing until 1920, the shipbuilding era on the Damariscotta River spanned a remarkable 150 years. Over 32 shipyards have been documented, mostly in the upper section of the river including Great Salt Bay. Square riggers, including clipper ships, and schooners were everyday sights and launches were often big community events with great fanfare.

Ships built here sailed the entire globe with destinations near and far, exporting timber, salted fish, bricks and ice and returning with coal, spices, tropical fruits, and other trade items. Little remains of this era although occasionally at low tide you might spot a few pilings or stone and granite walls once associated with some of the larger boatyards.

Archaeologist Tim Dinsmore has been investigating the early history of shipbuilding on the Damariscotta for decades with the help of Coastal Rivers’ Archaeology Field School, which he runs.